Don’t Let Your Art Be Too Precious

Breathe life into your art and then release it.

I was talking to a fellow creator today about the risks of getting too close to your work. All creators form a bond with their creations. You have to feel something for your work in order to pull creativity from an authentic place, but there comes a time when you need to detach from your art. You need to cut ties and let it fly free. When the work is done, kick that art out the door and make room for a new creative cycle.

When you find yourself obsessing over every detail, reworking a single piece of art, or seeking countless outside opinions–your work is becoming too precious and it will be the creative death of you. That art is too needy and it will drive you insane if you fixate on what you could change.

You might be thinking, “But Kelly, shouldn’t I dedicate my love and energy to my work?!”

Yes–you should–but not all of it. A little love is good. Giving all your love and energy to a single creative project is irresponsible. Everything you create will allow space for improvement, evolution, and growth, but each individual project has finite growth potential.

If you spend your lifetime writing a single novel that you rewrote 50 times until you got it just right, then you will have wasted years of energy that could have brought 50 other novels to life.

You have to settle for “complete” and not “perfect”.

What are the risks of your work being to precious?

It’s harder to start new projects.

If you never finish the piece you’ve dedicated all of your energy to, you will never start anything new. If this doesn’t bother you, then by all means, keep that precious mentality. Though, if you want to carve out a path to a professional creative career, you need to produce. You need to grow and evolve. Each new project is an opportunity to improve upon the last work of art.

It’s harder to hear criticism.

If you create one piece of art, it’s easy to feel emotionally bonded to it. When you hear negative feedback, it’s like an attack on your sense of self. Someone is critiquing an extension of you. They aren’t actually, but when you’re work is too precious, it definitely feels like that.

All of you creative eggs are in that single art basket. Don’t let your art have that much power over you. It isn’t a part of you anymore. Yes, you created it, but you have to detach from it. Once you send it out into the world, it’s on its own. The more art you push out the door, the more you’ll detach.

It’s harder to abandon something that isn’t working.

Look, I get it. You’ve put all of your energy into a huge project, and you can’t even fathom the idea of it failing–but it might fail–and you have to be okay with that. You have to be willing to move on for the sake of your sanity. When your art is too precious, abandoning it seems like betrayal.

That’s how you know it’s time to walk away. Betray the art. Move on to something new.

Time’s a wastin’.

What should you do if you’re work has become too precious?

I’ve been here. There’s no shame in the overly precious art game. But now that you’re aware of it, you have an opportunity to change.

Walk away. Get distance.

Once I lose the flow in a work of art or writing, and suddenly my momentum screeches to a painfully critical halt, I toss that creation in my dud pile. I leave it for another day. A day where I might have a different perspective.

Some of those works get attention in the future, and some get scrapped entirely if time didn’t help. The important thing is that you have the ability to walk away.

Start something new.

Once you walk away from something that became too precious, immediately pour your energy into a new project. I split my time between writing and art. Writing requires more labor and I have a tendency of getting too close to that work, so I write a little and then walk away and start a batch of new paintings.

When I get stuck on one, I move to another. When writer’s block hits, I paint. When my hands get tired or paint needs to dry, I write.

Keep the momentum going and spread your creative energy around to multiple projects.

Focus on quantity over perfect quality.

Your work will never be perfect. It will be good enough. It will be complete. It will be ready for the world to see. But it will never be perfect. Ever.

Don’t get obsessed with a single piece of art. View your creative life as a whole. Fill the years with as many imperfect works of art that you can, because you will become a better artist as a result. You will create more opportunities, discover more about yourself, and increase your odds of success by being a prolific creator.

Now, abandon that precious, energy sucking, needy work of art that is torturing you. You can’t give it the perfection it demands. That will take all the heart out of it.

***

(Need more convincing? I highly suggest this helpful piece by The Oatmeal. Kill your darlings.)

Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! Make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every week (kind of). And if you’d like to see more content like this in the future, consider becoming a Patron of mine! (See details below.)

-Kelly

@messyeverafter

P.S. You probably know by now that I am here to help artist’s with these posts. If you need help with your online branding, Instagram account, or just want a creative accountability coach, then check out my consulting services. You can easily add a session to my online calendar now.

Read more about my consulting services and book an appointment today.

Do want to help me create more blog content? I want to keep providing content like this for free, but I need your help. If you enjoy my blog posts and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep helping artists like you. Plus, you get extra little perks!

Further Reading:

How to Professionally Present Your Art for Sale

Tips for Packaging, Branding, and Preparing Your Art (Plus a downloadable Certificate of Authenticity!)

*Links contained in this post are affiliate links for Amazon and/or Dick Blick and I will earn a commission if you make a purchase at no additional cost to you. These commissions help fund more content like this, so thank you!

If you’ve watched any cooking shows in your life, you are fully aware that presentation is a big deal. Something that tastes like absolute garbage can look appetizing if plated with intention. Conversely, something that tastes like a gift from the heavens can look downright disgusting if the presentation is off.

This translates very easily to your art.

Packaging and presentation can take ‘okay’ art to the next level. Disregard for such things can turn away customers or prevent you from raising your prices.

For example, when I first moved to California, I participated in an outdoor group show. Three artists displayed in a pop up tent on walls, and another artist brought a table to sell prints. This last artist was a perfect lesson on what not to do when selling your art.

All he had was a table, and a stack of loose prints that he spread across the surface. His prints were displayed haphazardly. He used no protective plastic coverings and no backing boards. A slight breeze sent some pieces flying to the ground, which then resulted in him using rocks or other random objects to weigh them down. His art was exposed to the elements and to finger tips from potential customers. His art actually looked great, but no matter how good the art itself looked, he couldn’t get more than $5 to $10 for a print because he neglected to consider presentation. Plus, odds of the prints getting damaged at his display and when the customer walked away with the print were very high. Don’t be that guy.

When you are preparing to sell your art, you need to balance aesthetics and protection. You’ll want to make sure your art remains safe, while also making it look attractive to a customer. I know that funding is often tight when you start out, so don’t feel pressured to do everything on this list, but keep these ideas in the back of your mind as your art business grows:

How to prepare your art for sale

Presenting Canvases

Clean up the edges- Either paint the edges a solid color, extend your painting over the edges, or use painter’s tape to block off the edges before painting to keep them clean.

Clean up the back of the canvas-if you are a messy painter, consider using Kraft paper and painters tape to protect the back of your canvas from drips and spills while working.

Varnish- Always seal your finished paintings. This will protect your work from fingerprints, and smudges. Some varnishes also include a UV coating to protect colors from fading. (My favorite varnish is Liquitex High Gloss Varnish from Amazon or Blick)

Resin- Resin is a huge trend these days. Both as a medium to create art, and as a protective finish for your canvas or wood panels. I personally haven’t tried it, as I prefer my usual gloss varnish, but resin can really take a simple piece to another level.

Hanging materials– If you want to give your customers the option to immediately hang their art, read this post for tips.

Presenting Paper/Flat pieces

Protective plastic- when you are selling online or in person, a protective plastic bag is a great idea. Shipments can encounter moisture in transit, and customers walking around an art fair are likely going to stop for snacks and beverages as they walk around.

When I need a couple of items, I order my plastic bags from Amazon (5″x7″, 8″x10″, or 11″x14″). When I need to resupply my entire stock of bags, I order from Clearbags. (I will not make a commission off sales from Clearbags, but you can use code MESSY10 at checkout for 10% off your order until 12/31/2020)

Backing board-I highly recommend backing board as an extra layer of protection for your finished art within the plastic sleeves. The added rigidity protects your work while stored, shipped, and carried around events. I use Clearbags backing board most often, but Amazon is great if you need an item quickly (5″x7″, 8″x10″, or 11″x14″)

Frames and Matboard- Adding a frame and matboard to your work can take even a rough sketch to gallery level of presentation. If you work with standard sized paper, you can find plenty of precut mat and ready-made frames to fit your work. Like this matboard on Amazon with a simple frame. (More tips in this post.)

Branded Details

Sign Your Work

A lot of artists believe your art is only finished once signed. Some artists stick with their full name in cursive. Some use initials. Some create a little symbol. Some use a logo. Some don’t sign their work on the front surface. Some don’t sign at all. Some include a date.

Whatever you decide to do, make it your own. Do what feels authentic to you.

Name Your Work

Naming is the last thing I think about with my work, but it can add more context to your art, and it shows the world that you’ve put more care into what you created. It holds more meaning when it has a name.

Add a Story/Meaning

Knowing what inspired a work of art or what the piece means to the artist can help a viewer feel even more connected to the art. With pieces of higher value, consider writing a few lines about the piece. You can use this in online inventory descriptions, or include the story near title cards at shows.

Include a Certificate of Authenticity

In my opinion, certificates of authenticity are a little hoity toity, but I do love the care that is taken to document details of a piece. I created my own certificate using Canva, but tweaked it for a little humor and call it a “Certificate of Messiness,” to match my brand. You can do whatever you want with a certificate. It doesn’t need to adhere to any art world standard, in my opinion.

If you want to include a Certificate of Authenticity, I recommend tracking details like title, size, date created, materials used, your contact information, social handles, and anything else you deem relevant for your art.

If you are lazy and just want a ready made cert to print, then feel free to download this PDF that I made using Canva. I usually print four to a page on cardstock, cut with a guillotine cutter, fill it out by hand, and then put into an A2 envelope.

Downloadable Certificate of Authenticity
Other details to consider using:
  • Include a Thank You card with purchases.
  • Use stamps with a logo or signature on the back of art or on shipping materials.
  • Use stickers (Branded logos, thank yous, etc.)
  • Use tissue paper/colorful wrapping in packages or when wrapping items at events. (Secure with twine, ribbon, or stickers.)

***

Alright, that was a lot. Clearly you can see, the more care you put into your work, the more valuable it appears and becomes. This list can be added to, and not all artists will do everything on the list. If you can at least start by considering how you will protect your work while selling it, then you can slowly evolve all of the fun branded elements of your presentation over time.

***

Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! Make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every week (kind of). And if you’d like to see more content like this in the future, consider becoming a Patron of mine! (See details below.)

-Kelly

@messyeverafter

P.S. You probably know by now that I am here to help artist’s with these posts. If you need help with your online branding, Instagram account, or just want a creative accountability coach, then check out my consulting services. You can easily add a session to my online calendar now.

Read more about my consulting services and book an appointment today.

Do want to help me create more blog content? I want to keep providing content like this for free, but I need your help. If you enjoy my blog posts and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep helping artists like you. Plus, you get extra little perks!

Further Reading:

Can You Make Art if You Are Not an Artist?

Are you socially isolated and bored?

If you’re being a responsible member of society, you are staying home and are quite possibly bored out of your mind already. Damn this Coronavirus. If you’re like me, you also probably ate all of your quarantine snacks. (Poptarts, why you so tasty?!)

I am no stranger to staying away from people, but to all my fellow introverts, check on your extroverted friends. They probably aren’t okay. You should also convince them to pick up a new hobby–like art!

Now is the perfect time to make art and to flex your creative muscles. Whether you’ve done art in the past, consider yourself a professional, or believe you have zero creativity, you should make art.

And I know some of you might be thinking, “But I’m not an artist.”

Can you still make art?

Maybe this isn’t your career and maybe you are terribly unskilled–but you can make art, and you should make art.

Plenty of pretentious creators and art aficionados will try to convince the world that the creation of art is reserved for elite groups. That you cannot just be an artist or make art without a grand purpose or meaning. I get why. This practice drives the price of art up and inflates the value–but it also discourages a lot of people from trying to create.

I have been discouraged many times through my experiences in the art world, because I didn’t think I could live up to what an artist should be. And there was a long stretch where I did not believe I was an artist at all. During those years, I wasted too much time not creating.

Artist or not, you can and you should make art. To help any creative newbies out there, I put together a little list of Don’ts for getting started on making art.

1.DOn’t live by the rules

The art world has rules, but this is the world where you can and should break them. It’s always funny to me when creative people have rigid mindsets, because I see creativity as a fluid practice. Rearranging the things in your life to make new and surprising combinations is where creativity thrives. The moment you get stuck in your ways, is the moment creativity starts to fade.

Everything in your life can be used to make art, and art can be everything around you. You don’t have to make art a certain way. You don’t even have to use traditional supplies. Just make things.

Make sculptures with bubbles from your bubble bath. Use art stencils and cinnamon on top of your morning latte to make edible art. Fold and stack your bathroom towels in a new way. Organize your fruit bowl by color. Use tea and a watercolor brush to make earthy monochromatic paintings in a sketchbook. Fold your junk mail into origami flowers. Anything! The possibilities are endless.

There are no rules that you have to follow except to make art in anyway you can today.

2.Don’t listen to the naysayers

I’ve heard from so many people over the years that they quit making art because someone said something negative to them. That they weren’t good enough. That they would never be able to make money from art. That they were doing the wrong kind of art. That what they made wasn’t even art at all.

I know a lot of these negative comments can come from a place of good intentions, but it is amazing how quickly you can steal someone’s artistic light with a careless critique or judgment.

So I am here to tell you that those comments mean nothing. Nobody has an objective truth about your potential or what will happen in the future. If you feel the urge to create something–do it. Defy the limitations put on you and make all the art your heart desires.

3.And Don’t be your own Naysayer

Negative comments from others are bad, but negative comments from your own internal dialogue are even worse. Choose to only listen to encouraging thoughts, because they will move you forward. Positive thoughts are creative. Negative thoughts are destructive.

Now is the time to create. You can do this. You should do this. Having or not having the label of “artist” does not matter.

All that matters is that you create.

***

I hope you follow all of your curiosities and make the art that you want to make. If you found this post helpful, feel free to send it to anyone who needs a little encouragement today!

Now go make art and share it with me on Instagram using the hashtag #messyeverafter 🙂

Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! Make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every week. And if you’d like to see more content like this in the future, consider becoming a Patron of mine! (See details below.)

-Kelly


Do want to help me create more blog content? I want to keep providing content like this for free, but I need your help. If you enjoy my blog posts and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep helping artists like you. Plus, you get extra little perks!

Further Reading: